What is A Straight Bet
The straight bet is about as basic as you can get in gambling and is offered in every pay per head on the planet. For almost every football game, professional and college, there will be a listing of the two teams playing and two numbers beside those teams. It will look like this:
The visiting team is listed on top, with the home team listed below that. For this game, the Detroit Lions have traveled to Miami. The numbers beside the teams will tell you two things. First of all, the “total” for the game is 48.5 points. That means that the projected number of points that both teams (Detroit and Miami) will combine to score is 48.5.
The smaller number, the “spread,” is 9.5 and is listed beside Miami. That means that Miami is projected to win this game by 9.5 points. Which team actually wins this matchup is probably inconsequential to the gambler.
What he cares about is “covering the spread”-that is, did his team either win by more than 9.5 points (if he bet Miami), or did his team come within 9.5 points of winning (Detroit)? If Joe Gambler wagered $100 on Miami and the Dolphins win the game 28-20, that’s great for the Dolphins, not so great for Joe. Miami didn’t win by at least 9.5 points, so Joe loses his bet.
If his buddy Steve took Detroit plus the 9.5 points, even though the Lions were beaten pretty easily by Miami, Steve would still win his bet because Detroit had come within 9.5 points of winning. Many people will refer to betting the spread as the “side,” as in, “Which side did you bet?” Betting the spread (or side) is a straight play. So Joe wagered $100 and lost, while Steve wagered $100 and won.
You know the best thing about this? You had the exact same amount of action on each side of the game, and you will come out ahead. That is because, while Steve won his $100, Joe winds up losing $110.
On a straight play, a winning bet will win the gambler whatever was risked. However, on a losing straight play, the gambler must pay not only the amount of the wager but also an additional 10 percent, call “juice” or “vigorish.” Because of this, Joe loses $110. So that there are never any questions about how you pay off or collect on wagers, you should structure your business based on “Vegas rules.”
That means that whatever the casinos in Las Vegas do, so do you. Every casino in Las Vegas and every bookmaker on the planet charges a 10 percent vigorish for most straight plays. While customers don’t like paying the “vig,” if you didn’t charge it, it would seriously cut into your profits and make you seem amateurish to the players. Betting the spread is a straight play, and the vig on most straight plays will be 10 percent.
The other number we had listed was the “total.” If it appears that betting the side could make a person care a lot less about who actually wins a game, betting the “total” will completely devalue winning and losing.
If Joe had decided to play the total, he has a choice of going “over” or “under.” He could have bet that the combined score of Detroit and Miami would be over 48.5 or under 48.5. In this example, the game finished under the total by all of a half-point. All wagers under the total win; all wagers over the total lose.
What could be simpler? Well, for most of the action you take, nothing will be simpler. A customer will call and tell you he has “six plays for today. $100 each. I want Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, San Diego, and the Baltimore game under.” Six straight plays for $100 each, and the call is completed. That will take care of most players.
The customers who go beyond straight plays will require a bit more effort on your part, but the added sweat will be minimal and well worth it.
Buying a Half Point
An option that sometimes will make sense to the gambler is to “buy” a half-point. After checking the line, a customer may decide to risk paying double juice to gain a half-point advantage on either the side or total. First, we will talk about how buying a half-point works and then we will detail the business side of it.
In the above example, we have Miami favored by 9.5 with a total of 48.5. The final score was 28-20. Our friend Joe could have decided that 9.5 points were just a bit more than he felt comfortable laying and that he would buy a half-point.
Now, instead of having Miami -9.5 while risking $1 10 to win $100, Joe would have Miami -9 while risking $120 (double the normal 10 percent juice) to win the very same $100. Joe would have still lost his bet (Miami only won by 8), but now he would be down $120 instead of $110. He risked the double juice and lost, as buying the extra half-point did him no good.
Let’s say, however, that Joe had also wanted to win $100 on the game going over the total but bought a half-point with that wager, too. Now Joe’s bet is risking $120 to win $100 that the two teams will combine to go over 48 points. The teams combine for exactly that amount, so the bet is a “push” (tie), and no money exchanges hands.
While buying the half-point on the side wound up costing Joe an extra $10, using the same strategy on the total saved him $110 because he pushed on the wager instead of losing it. What about a customer who buys a half-point on a winning play? If Steve would have bet the Lions and “bought” the side up to 10, he still would have won the bet and collected the same $100. In that instance, his buying the half-point had no effect on the outcome of the wager.
Buying a half-point is something that customers usually will do only on sides and usually only with a spread that involves a 3 or a 7. If Miami had been favored by 7.5 instead of 9.5, some of your customers might have thought it wise to buy the Dolphins down to 7. It wouldn’t have mattered in this case, but in many games the outcome will be either 3 or 7 points and the customer feels that he is giving himself a better chance at winning (or at least not losing) if he buys a half-point when the line involves a 3 or 7.
He is mistaken in this assumption, but if it makes the customer feel better, so be it. If the line on the above game was Miami -7.5, the customer may say, “Give me $100 on Miami and I want to buy the hook,” meaning he wants to get rid of the half-point on the end of the spread. If the line was a straight 7, there would be no hook to buy, but a caller may wish to buy the game to 6.5. In this way, the bettor is looking to win a game that falls exactly at 7 points, instead of just pushing.
Allowing customers the option of buying a half-point will only help your business. Understand that there will be games where your customers appear to have gotten the better of you because you let them buy half-points. A caller may have “North Carolina State for $1,000, and I want to buy it down to 3.” This means that N.C. State may be a 3.5 point favorite and he wants to risk $1,200 (instead of just $1, 100) to win $1,000.
The final score may have N.C. State winning 24-21. If your customer had taken the line as it existed, you would have won $1,100 from him. Instead, the game is a push, and you win nothing. Don’t worry about that. Just remind yourself that letting customers buy the half-point will put money in your pocket two ways:
1. Many more games will have a final score where buying the half-point does nothing to affect the wager. N.C. State could have won the game by 4 points or 104 points, and it still would not have affected how much the customer won (in this case, $1,000).
By the same token, N.C. State could have lost the game by any amount or won by less than 3 and now you would be collecting double the normal juice. Over the long run (your concern should always be the long run), you will make much more money collecting double juice than you will ever lose from a player getting a tie here and there because of buying a half-point.
2. The more freedom you give your customers, the more you allow them to feel that they are in control, the more loyal they will be, and that produces dividends to you in a few different ways. Most immediately, the customer will not feel that you have screwed him in any way and won’t harbor bad feelings toward you. Bad feelings between bookie and client cause debts to go unpaid and, sometimes, people to get fingerprinted (namely, you).
Another reason to allow customers to buy a half-point is that it is just one more way of showing that you are superior to other bookies in your area. Gamblers have a habit of running into other gamblers, and if one of your customers can brag to his buddies that, among other goodies, he is allowed to buy a half-point, his friends may ask to be put on with you.
Remember, a customer who plays just $50 and $100 a game will still lose approximately $2,000 during a football season. If you get even one more customer because you operate by Vegas rules and treat your customers with respect, it is worth it.
Besides straight plays on the side or total, buying the half-point is only one of several other types of wagers that your customers may wish to make on football games. Others include in our software are parlays, teasers, “A & Rs,” the money line and exotics.